Are Remote Workers Healthier?

Today is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2008. Tomorrow morning most people will wake up with a cracking headache and possibly a few regrets from the night before. Luckily most of us don’t have to go to work. In fact with New Year’s Day falling on a Thursday many people won’t return to work till next Monday, me included!

This has got me thinking about if there is any difference between remote workers and on site workers health wise?

Many companies with telecommuting or remote working employees report one or two days less absenteeism per remote employee per year. As Zdnet points out:

“Teleworking is proven to decrease sick days, days lost to child-care emergencies and time taken for doctor appointments. Simply reducing the average employee absentee rate by one day a year can mean adding one or two points to a company’s profit margin, according to studies released by CIGNA corporation.”

It’s true that I am more likely to carry on working now that I work from home. I don’t have to drag myself into the office, nobody can see how red my nose is and I won’t be spreading my germs about. I’m also less stressed so probably stay fitter longer. That said I do sometimes feel isolated and probably don’t take enough breaks which might not be great for my mental health. I’m also not sure my eating habits are that great (see Top 10 Remote Worker Lunches). Definitely some room for improvement…. Will being healthier be on your New Year’s Resolutions list?

About.com have provided a useful guide to staying healthy at work. Their top tips are:

  1. Wash Your Hands. Often.
  2. Keep your workspace clean.
  3. Eat balanced meals every day – including breakfast!
  4. Avoid coworkers who are sick.
  5. Drink AT LEAST 8 glasses of water a day.
  6. Take frequent breaks throughout the day.
  7. Use your vacation days.
  8. Quit smoking.

I’m going to have a go at number 7 and enjoy the last few days of the holiday!

Happy New Year!!

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Have a Very Merry Christmas

By now most of you will be off indulging in festive cheer. The great thing about scheduling blog posts is that I am too!!

Anyway I just wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks to you for reading my blog – who ever you are!

Here are a few festive snaps for you to enjoy…

Longford Road Lights in Melksham

Longfords Road Lights in Melksham

If there is one thing Melksham (the town where I live) does well it’s Christmas lights. Longford Road is just round the corner from me and has even been listed in the Telegraph’s top 10 places to see christmas lights. The residents spend a fortune on buying and maintaining lights and heavens only knows what their electricity bill must be! Despite my reservations on the environmental front they raise a lot of money for charity so well done them!

More lights

Marieke Guy and family

Here’s one of my lovely family. Aren’t I lucky!

Enjoy your Christmas and make sure you spend at least a few hours of the day off your computers!
😉

Top 10 Remote Worker Lunches

Last week I posted on Twitter that I’d hit all time low and eaten a pot noodle for lunch. A fellow Twitterer commented that I hadn’t mentioned this in my articles on the benefits of home working. This got me thinking….

Today is UKOLN’s Christmas Lunch and I’m hoping to catch up with all our remote workers who are dropping in specially. With the holidays in sight and New Year not far round the corner I thought it was maybe time for my ‘top 10 lunches as a Remote Worker’ list. Enjoy…

  1. Cold Pasta – Cover with cheese and put in the microwave for 1 minute.
  2. No lunch today – Child sent home from nursery ill, usual stuff, nursery says “your child is ill, you’ll have to take him home before some other child catches it”, I think “well he wasn’t ill when I left him, he must have caught it off of one of the other children, in fact one of the children that he has to keep away from in case they catch his illness!
  3. Cold brussell sprouts, cabbage and leeks – Veg box overload. Good job I work alone!
  4. leek1

  5. No lunch today– just Hot-mail, Facebook fruit and BBCi Player sandwiches.
  6. Pasty from the bakers in town – Does anyone know that it’s actually my lunch break or do they think I’m a unemployed couch potato who has made it into town? Maybe they think I’m a student? Erm…perhaps that’s being a bit optimistic….
  7. 8 biscuits, 2 lumps of cheese, 3 yoghurts and a bag of kettle crisps – This wasn’t so much a lunch as an activity for my mouth. I made up for the calories by the frequent trips to the fridge (14 in total).
  8. 6 cups of coffee – nuff said…
  9. Quiche and salad – Went out for lunch with a friend. They brought their kids with them. Now having work life ruined by annoying children as well as home life. Joke!!
  10. Sandwiches – Why is it only the doorstep end bits are left? In fact does bread without butter or filling constitute a sandwich? Chewing on office furniture more appealing.
  11. Very quick soup so I have time for the laundry, unloading the dishwasher, sewing up the holes in children’s clothes and sorting out the recycling. Husband thinks that all these jobs are done by the tooth fairy.

I know it is all wrong, wrong, wrong so here is some Advice for Grumpy Home Workers from an expert on what you should really be doing.

The Limitations of Broadband

As Virgin Media unveil their 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) domestic broadband service today the papers are also reporting on the fact that many UK customers have exceeded or come close to exceeding their broadband usage limit. This is based on a report by consumer group uSwitch.

The report reveals that many users do know actually know their limit and wrongfully believe that their unlimited service means just that.

I’ve mentioned issues with unlimited use before.

Interestingly, I recently conducted an internal survey here at UKOLN on Broadband use that also shows what a confusing area this can be, even for those who would be classified as ‘fairly technical people’! Confusion aside the survey indicated that most people who do a significant amount of work from home use a speed of 8mb +; and almost all have unlimited downloads.

I think here at UKOLN we feel that it would be good to offer more support for staff when choosing a broadband provider. At the moment we are still unclear what form this would take as our remote workers are scattered around the country and everyone has their own requirements.

Maybe we could come up with some tips or pointers to good resources.

Any thoughts?

Seasons Tweetings

I previously mentioned on Ramblings.. that despite having a go I was Still Not Getting Twitter.

I have to admit to being surprised at the response. Friends, colleagues and blog readers who use Twitter (successfully) really went out of their way to convince me (both online and off) that it’s worth investing time in.

Most people told me why they used it and what they got out of it:

I have a very concentrated almost live-news summary of what’s happening in the various sectors I’m involved in

..as a way of listening in on other people’s streams-of-consciousness

I really like the feeling of community chat: seeing people I know sending @messages to other people I know is somehow very satisfying and somehow reinforces my online social network..

(From blog comments)

Fewer people answered my concerns about not having enough to say, the time to update or read messages.

That said I have had a few tools tipped in my direction that could possibly help, so for those not so in the know here they are.

Updating Messages

TwitterFeed

twitterfeed

A very simple way to send the RSS feed of your blog to Twitter. This means I send a tweet every few days without even having to think about it!

Facebook Twitter Application

This allows you to update Facebook from Twitter. I can’t work out how to do it the other way round though without having programming skills and your own server (if anyone knows let me know). As my colleague Paul Walk put it “it’s almost as though Facebook is a bit of a walled garden….”. I take it this is why developers aren’t so keen on Facebook. Twitter on the other hand is king of the APIs!

Reading Messages

Tweetdeck

TweetDeck is an Adobe Air desktop application that allows you to organise your tweets. You can sort them, group them and even search live tweet information.
tweetdeck

A great way to filter out what is useful and relevant to you.

My colleague Brian Kelly has just written a blog post exploring the usefulness of Tweetdeck to our current project work.

A few other Twitter tools I’ve stumbled on include

  • Twist: tracks trend in terms used
  • Tweetscan: a Twitter search engine
  • I’ve also recently started using Yammer, which is an enterprise version of Twitter, for keeping track of what I’m working on.

It seems there is no escaping the tweeting….

Make Way for Webinars

I’ve been invited to present at an online event for JISC Regional Support Centre Eastern.
The webinar will be on Web 2.0 and will run in February, I’ll keep you posted on times and dates.

For those who haven’t heard this term before Wikipedia describes a webinar as:

..a neologism to describe a specific type of web conference. It is typically one-way,from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction, such as in a webcast. A webinar can be collaborative and include polling and question & answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter. In some cases, the presenter may speak over a standard telephone line, pointing out information being presented on screen and the audience can respond over their own telephones, preferably a speaker phone. There are web conferencing technologies on the market that have incorporated the use of VoIP audio technology, to allow for a truly web-based communication. Webinars may (depending upon the provider) provide hidden or anonymous participant functionality, enabling participants to be unaware of other participants in the same meeting.

Although I touched on the area of Virtual Meetings and Conferences in my Ariadne article (Staying Connected: Technologies Supporting Remote Workers) this will be my first online presentation! Naturally delivery of workshops or lectures over the Web has great potential for remote workers so I’m really happy to be involved.

The JISC Regional Support Centres have given a number of webinars in the past and two are discussed on the Intute blog as part of their webinar trials.

They list some of the pros and cons of hosting an online event. It seems the events went well but Emma Place and the Intute team conclude that they need to “work on their online presentation skills and develop sessions that are more suited to the medium“. This is something that I am very conscious of and I hope to do a few practice runs before the big day.

The Intute post also briefly mentions the technologies used for the webinars (Gotomeeting and DimDim). The RSC Eastern event will use Elluminate). I intend to write a future post on different software in this area when I’ve a little more experience.

Still Not Getting Twitter

I’m currently working on a fairly technical project (Good APIs) so last week under went some ‘geek’ immersion therapy by attending both the CETIS conference and Mashed Library. Both great events.

At both events everyone seemed to be using Twitter. Twitter for notification about the event, Twitter hashtags for live blogging and Twitter for chatting about the event (before, during and after). I’ve seen it before at other events but this time I started to feel a little left out…

For those who aren’t familiar with Twitter it is:

a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

As someone recently explained to me: every tweet is a bit like a haiku! What a creative bunch the Twitterers are!
😉

For those more familiar with Facebook it is like the updates bit on its own, you ‘follow’ people and they can ‘follow’ you back.

I had a go at writing a few tweets during the events but previous to this my last tweet was 7 months ago. As one colleague put it:

intrigued by @mariekeguy tweet pattern… “back to watching the Gadget show” on Apr 28th, then nothing until 5 hours ago! hell of a show!

Oh dear…

When it comes to Twitter I’m just another one of those people who “doesn’t get it…”

I think the main reasons for this are:

  • I spend a lot of time offline and I have a pay-as-you-go phone (OK embarrassing but true – 3 small children cost money to keep) so I don’t want to do updates via my phone.
  • I like the status updates on Facebook because you can do them every couple of days and it doesn’t seem odd, but with Twitter you feel like you have to update it a lot. People have compared it to an open chat forum; I just think I’d never have enough to say. One blog describes Twitter as “a weird animal that seemingly only exists to feed one’s ego” (though you could say the same about blogs…). Perhaps I don’t have the ego?
  • Twitter isn’t mainstream yet so a lot of the people I know don’t use it…I’m not sure if this is a proper excuse…
  • I’m not very good at having to restrict what I have to say. I’d probably go for an email or skype chat to fill in the detail.
  • I don’t seem to have the time (or the inclination) to get my head round how you use it. What’s are @replies and nudges anyway?
  • I think it is mainly work people who use Twitter but still the work/home boundaries can get very blurred. Last week on Facebook updates I put that I was off to the CETIS conference and a couple of my friends mentioned extraterrestrial life (they obviously thought I was going to a SETI conference!). I’d be concerned about scaring friends with work information and boring colleagues with home information!

That said I’m concerned that I’m going to miss out. Those who are into Twitter seem to be first with the news and first on the scene. My colleagues rave about it (Brian Kelly – UK Web Focus , Paul Walk, eFoundations)) and I keep thinking maybe I should just persevere.

And then I get distracted by something that can’t be described in 140 characters….

Any advice?